Suppose you are at home on a Saturday afternoon. You are sitting on the couch watching television when suddenly there is a knock on your door. Not expecting anyone, your roommate gets up, walks to the door and asks who it is. He opens the door, and you hear a voice say, “Police, we are here to do a probation search of your home.”
If you’ve been convicted of a crime and are on probation, this scenario is a real possibility, but it is not always true that law enforcement officers are lawfully allowed to search your home simply because you are on probation. This is why it is important that you understand your rights before you let the police proceed with a search.
Formal vs. Informal Probation
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants you the right to be free from unlawful searches and seizures. However, if you are convicted of a crime and placed on probation, you may lose this right during your probationary period. This may depend upon whether you were placed on formal or informal probation.
If you are on probation for a felony conviction, you are likely on what is known as “formal” or “supervised” probation. This means that you will have to check in regularly with your probation officer.
If you were convicted of a misdemeanor, you were likely placed on “informal” or “summary” probation. Under informal probation, you likely will not have a probation officer, but you may have to occasionally report your progress to the court.
Probation Searches of Your Home
In many felony cases, one of the conditions of formal probation is that your right to prevent a search of your home or car is suspended during the probationary period. This means that an officer who randomly shows up at your home on a Saturday afternoon has the legal authority to search your place.
However, the officer can only normally search the areas of the home you use. If you have a roommate, his or her room cannot be legally searched, but any of the rooms you use – your bedroom, the kitchen, the bathroom, the living room – could be legally searched without a warrant. The officer could also possibly search your car without the need for a warrant.
If you are on informal probation, you do not lose your protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. So, if a law enforcement officer shows up and asks to search your home without a warrant, what should you do?
If you or someone else who lives in your home consents to the search, any evidence law enforcement finds likely could be used against you in court. The correct course of action in most cases is to politely inform the officer that you are aware of your rights and you do not give permission for him or her to enter your home. The officer will need to go through the constitutionally required procedure of attempting to obtain a warrant in order to conduct a search.
Contact the Experienced Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled criminal defense attorneys have more than 35 years of experience successfully representing clients in various probation violation cases. Our law firm may be able to help you terminate probation early or defend you if you are accused of violating a term of your probation. Contact us today so we can begin to help you.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, West Covina, Torrance, Los Angeles and San Diego, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you are located.
Contact our offices today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.